Baptism, the Visible Word
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on August 24, 2014
Today we are stepping away from our journey through the Sermon on the Mount to talk about something that I believe is fundamental to your sanctification, to your becoming like Jesus in your life, and that is baptism. Next Sunday, immediately following Church, all of you are invited and encouraged to re-congregate at Central Park to celebrate the work of Jesus Christ through at least two of our members. My hope for today is that this sermon will spur more of you to consider your need to be baptized, not as a baby, but as a born again Christian.
Now with this said, there is not enough time for me to speak exhaustively about all the theology as it relates to baptism in one sermon. Therefore, I ask for your grace if he do not hear me saying something that you wish would be said. The hardest part of preaching is not coming up with 40 minutes of material; it is limiting it to only 40 minutes, which as you know I fail to do from time to time.
Our text for today is Romans 6:1-14. As always, let us read our text and pray that God’s Word would shine on our hearts are reveal to us His truth.
Having said this, if baptism is not necessary for justification before God, why did Jesus himself implement it, and not only implement it, but command it? If you recall, baptism is a part of the great commission, which are the last marching orders of Jesus.
What is Baptism?
To keep it simple, baptism is a symbol. What is a symbol? It is something that represents or stands for something else. A symbol is not the real thing, but it reminds you of the real thing.
When you think about it, the Bible is full of symbols. The rainbow is a symbol of the covenant between God and man regarding not flooding the earth. Circumcision is a symbol of God’s covenant with ethnic Israel. The ark of the covenant was the symbol of God’s covenant presence with ethnic Israel. Communion is the symbol of the new covenant of the blood and body of Jesus.
Our God frequently speaks to us by using symbols, and this is how I want you to think about baptism. I want you to think about it as God speaking. It is his ceremony, and he wants his ceremony to tell you and tell the world something. This is why I have titled my message today Baptism, the Visible Word. For those who are taking our systematic theology class on Sunday mornings you will recognize that I borrowed that word from Dr. John Frame. But this is how I want us at Cornerstone to understand baptism, it is God's visible Word to the World and to us.
So with that said, what is God saying through baptism? What does this visible word proclaim? Simply put, it proclaims the inward reality of a believer’s union with Jesus Christ, and this union begins with your death.
Baptized into Death
Look at Romans 6:3-14 and see the times that death is mentioned.
What is the old self? Look again at verse 6. The best description of the old self is a slave to sin. Before my union with Christ, the best and most comprehensive way to describe who I was, was to say that Phil Parsons was a slave to sin. Sin had complete and utter authority in my life. I was chained to it. Nothing I did, glorified God. Listen to Ephesians 2:1-2 which is a great description of the old self.
Raised to Life
The second part that God is proclaiming through Baptism is the newness of life.
And all of this happens at the moment of conversion. At that moment that you hear the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and you place your entire life in the hands of the son of God there is a cataclysmic change in your life. One minute you are dead, and the next minute you are alive. The old self is gone and a new life has begun, and this is what baptism is a symbol of. This is what baptism is pointing to. Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward reality of a born again, believer of Jesus Christ.
However, the questions remains, why did Jesus implement a ceremony that points to this internal reality. Why does he command that each and everyone who becomes a disciple to find water, be dunked under and be lifted out? As I said earlier, baptism is a symbol of our justification but is for the purpose of sanctification.
Having said that these people were not perfect. They were redeemed yes, but they still struggled with their flesh, there sin. These people were justified before the Lord, but they were not perfect. They struggled with living a holy life to the Lord. God had begun a good work in them, but He had not completed it. This struggle with sin is true for every Christians who has accepted Christ. We are eternally saved, but we are not instantly perfect. Listen to what Jesus prays for the night of his arrest I regards to his disciples.
It is the visible Word of baptism that Paul is telling those is Rome to remember as they struggle with their sin. He wants them to look back and remember who they are. He wants them to remember that they are no longer of the World. They are no longer slaves to sin. Paul wants them to consider themselves dead. They must instead live their life as if sin has no dominion over us. They must walk in newness of life and present ourselves to the Lord, not to Satan.
And this is why Jesus commands that all disciples to immediately participate in this act of baptism, not because Jesus is all about rituals, but because he is all about sanctification. For some reason, we in our weakness tend to forget who we are in Jesus. We, at times, struggle to act in a way that matches our identity in Christ. Baptism helps us to remember. When we accept Jesus into our hearts it happens on the inside. Baptism brings that internal reality to the outside so that you can look back and understand that the old self is dead, so leave him dead.
And this is why all believers should participate in a believers baptism, not just an infant baptism. You are undermining the gift of God's visible word. Infant baptism carries no message for you. It is not a symbol of your conversion, it is a symbol of your parents religion. If you have given your life to Christ, allow that visible Word of God to be proclaimed so that when Satan comes knocking on your door you can look back and remember who you are in Christ.
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